31 July 2 Samuel 3:22-32

31 July.  Joab kills Abner

“Just then Joab and David’s men came from a battle, bringing many valuable things they had taken from the enemy. David had let Abner [Saul’s leading general] leave in peace, so he was not with David at Hebron.”

“When Joab and all his army arrived at Hebron, the army said to Joab, ‘Abner son of Ner came to King David, and David let him leave in peace.’”

“Joab came to the king and said, ‘What have you done? Abner came to you. Why did you let him go? Now he’s gone. You know Abner son of Ner! He came to trick you! He came to learn about everything you are doing!’”

“After Joab left David, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the well of Sirah. But David did not know this. When Abner arrived at Hebron, Joab took him aside into the gateway. He acted as though he wanted to talk with Abner in private, but Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and Abner died. Abner had killed Joab’s brother Asahel, so Joab killed Abner to pay him back.”

“Later when David heard the news, he said, ‘My kingdom and I are innocent for ever of the death of Abner son of Ner. The LORD knows this. Joab and his family are responsible for this. May his family always have someone with sores or with a skin disease. May they always have someone who must lean on a crutch. May some of his family be killed in war. May they always have someone without food to eat…’”

“Then David said to Joab and to all the people with Joab, ‘Tear your clothes and put on rough cloth to show how sad you are. Cry for Abner.’ King David himself followed the body of Abner. They buried Abner in Hebron, and David and all the people cried at Abner’s grave.”

          (2 Samuel 3:22-32)



Today’s passage, with its plot firmly grounded in Old Testament morality and a deep thirst for revenge, makes grim reading for modern-day Christians. It is such a far cry from Jesus’s command to forgive your neighbour “seventy times seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22).

Abner, Saul’s leading general, had come to David with a plan to bring peace to Israel and Judah. In return for a promise of personal safety, he had agreed to persuade the elders of Israel to accept David as their king in place of Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth. After entertaining Abner with a meal, David had let him leave Judah in peace.

But David’s army commander, Joab, had no desire for forgiveness or for a peaceful resolution to the seven years of civil war. When he heard that Abner had visited David at Hebron and had been granted safe passage to return to Israel, he was mortified, and immediately set out to deceive Abner with lies in order to trap him and “pay him back” (2 Samuel 3:27).

Having persuaded Abner to return to Hebron for further talks, Joab then called him aside at the city gate and murdered him in cold blood – an act that Joab saw as ‘justifiable revenge’ as Abner had killed Joab’s brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon (see 2 Samuel 2:18-23).

When David heard the news of Abner’s death at the hands of Joab, he was sick with grief. He protested his innocence before the LORD, and promptly issued a string of curses on Joab and his family. In his own desire for revenge, he prayed that Joab and his family would be hit by sickness, famine and death.

As we said above, both Joab’s and David’s actions were a thousand miles away from the need for forgiveness that Jesus taught his followers in the New Testament. When Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, when my fellow believer sins against me, how many times must I forgive him? Should I forgive him as many as seven times?” Jesus’s reply was clear: “I tell you, you must forgive him more than seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Jesus’s attitude was that ‘revenge’ is never justified; instead, forgiveness is the only way forward, and it requires forgiving as many times as is necessary – even if that’s “seventy times seven times”!

The photo (by Copper Kettle) shows the Russian Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity at Hebron.

You can read more about Hebron @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/23-the-journeys-of-adam-enoch-noah-abraham/abraham-dies-at-hebron/

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